Harrogate Town 2, Chorley 1
Chorley slipped to an ill-timed defeat on Harrogate's 3G playing surface as their bid to record a first away win since early January came unstuck.
The Magpies’ cause was not helped by the concession of two first-half goals from a penalty and then a free-kick before Jack Sampson maintained his goal-a-game sequence to bring them back into the match but despite an improved second-half showing there was to be no reward.
In truth, Harrogate deserved their victory on the balance of play – and more significantly in terms of attempts on goal.
Harrogate took the lead after 13 minutes. Lewis Turner was fouled as he burst into the box and Joe Leesley sent Branagan the wrong way from the spot. Then on 38 minutes a trip by Jake Cottrell conceded a free-kick, expertly delivered by Leesley, which enabled Harrogate hot-shot Simon Ainge to lose his marker and head powerfully into the net at the far post.
Inbetween these goals, Branagan had made a great save, while at the other end loss of control on the lively surface cost Marcus Carver two chances to put Chorley on the score-sheet and Sampson was unlucky to see a smart header go narrowly wide.
Sampson did reduce the arrears in the 42nd minute, capitalising on a fluffed clearance by home keeper Peter Crook to fire into the open net from eight yards. Even then, Chorley were grateful to Branagan for two more outstanding saves.
The Magpies were improved after the break but the closest they came to an equaliser was when Harrogate defender Warren Burrell misjudged header was tipped onto the bar by his own keeper.
With four minutes to go, Matt Challoner got in a shot which Crook just kept out, though there was a suspicion that he might have carried the ball over the line in doing so.
The final act deep into added time saw Harrogate awarded a second penalty but this time Branagan kept out Leesley’s straight-down-the-middle attempt.
CHORLEY: Branagan, Challoner, Jarvis, Teague, Leather (Walker,70), Jordan, Blakeman, Whitham (O’Keefe,80), Carver (McDaid,76), Sampson, Cottrell. Unused subs. Charnock, Roscoe.